Jan Cox Talk 3116

Men Cannot Know Who They Are, But They Can Sure Say They Know


The following recordings are from Jan’s final years, when his voice was diminished and he spoke in a low whisper. Some listeners may find these tapes hard to listen to, or difficult to understand. Thus, as another option, read the transcript below.

Otherwise, turn up the volume and enjoy! Those who carefully listened to Jan during this period consider that he spoke plainly and directly to the matter at hand, “pulling out all the stops,” as he understood that these were to be his last messages to his groups, and to posterity.

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Edited Transcript = See Below
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Notes by TK

To be conscious is to have allowed a stranger to invade and take over your mental household. Everybody feels like they have an “I” entity or feeling of selfness inside, which controls their life. This is a total fiction. When did you decide to become you? How did you decide to be you? It’s even impossible to think about that! One characterization of the process of awakening is: ‘separation from illusion’; but there is no way to know that; you could be separating from reality!!

Ordinary consciousness believes it is in charge because it is who it is. But how can you know you’re you? There is no way to know because there is no alternative for comparison; moreover you can’t even think about it!! Therefore separation from illusion is separation of what from what!?

Men cannot know who they are, but all men can SAY that they know who they are. That is the norm—the ordinary condition of a man’s consciousness; in this sense, separation from it is separation from reality, consensual reality. (43:42) #3116

Notes by DR

Jan Cox Talk 3116       As waking up becomes enlightenment its all separation from illusion except there’s the joke: there’s no way to know that. You could be separating from reality, not from into another illusion.


03-03-2004   #3116
Edited by SA

To be human, to be conscious, is as if you have allowed a stranger to become head of your household. You have allowed someone you do not know to become mayor of your city, king of your domain. Now, that’s a bit of verbal razzmatazz, because whether you have been taken over or not, whether you are in charge or not, is hard to think about. I was going to tell you the truth and say it’s impossible to think about, but why discourage you right off the bat? All that I can do is offer you the best description that ever came to me.

What is it that makes you aware that you’re “you,” makes you conscious, makes you have thoughts? Ordinary people call that thing “myself” or “I.” The view with which you were born, the view that is natural to your brain, natural to you if you’re an ordinary person, is that there is a “self” in your head that’s in charge and that makes your decisions, the decisions that count, the decisions that make you human. That “self” decides what religion you believe in, what music and movies you like, which people you like, what political views you agree with, and what positions on morality you adopt.

That thing is obviously a distinct function of our brains, but ordinary people do not see their “self” as a function, as some specific operation of their brain. Ordinary people see the function as being a person, as being them, with all of their thoughts, their individual opinions, their viewpoints and their personal feelings.

You’ve got to be ordinary to believe that garbage. This thing in your head is a stranger. The truth is that they—we—have allowed someone we don’t know to come in and take over. To think about this, you could start by considering when it was that you decided to be “you.” How did this come about? Where did this “you” come from? Did you have a choice? Were there two or three “yous” that you could select from? Were several “yous” presented serially through the years, from when you first became conscious at the age of two or so, through your teens, or even into your twenties? Did you find yourself faced with a menu of “yous” that you could select from?

Let’s say your name is Joe. Were there two or three, four or five, a dozen models of Joe that you could have chosen? Did you see a Joe like your father, or a neighbor, or some sports hero, and say to yourself, “That’s the Joe I want to be in charge of me.” Did you then simply ask that Joe to take over, or was it that somewhere in your mind, you could look into a metaphysical closet where all the possible Joes were vaporously draped over intangible hangers? You looked at a particular Joe with his specific political and religious views, and you thought, “His religion is fine, but I don’t like his take on politics.” You put that Joe back on the rack. You looked through two or three more Joes, or a dozen more Joes, and you finally found a model you liked. So you took that Joe off the rack, and you squished him into your head.

Is that what happened? Did anything resembling that happen? If I hadn’t brought it up, would you ever have thought about it? No. Can you think about it now? No. You can think about what I said, but can you think about the situation? Try it. I’ve got some time. Go ahead…

You’re not trying. Well, maybe you did try, and you see the humor in it. As always, look at this for yourself, but I say that what you take to be “you” is someone you don’t know, someone you’ve allowed to come in and take over—assuming that they are in charge, which we’re about to get to. But you believe, if you’re ordinary, that in your head—or, more poetically, in your heart—that somewhere intangibly inside you is what some would call your soul. You can call this thing anything you want to, but it is not a physical organ, not like a heart or a stomach. This thing is a something that operates in a totally different realm, and it’s you. It’s you spiritually, it’s you mentally, it’s you personally.

Every human knows who they are. When they say, “I,” they don’t mean just “my feet” or “my stomach.” Those body parts are part of “you,” and they’re important if we’re talking about health, or about protecting “yourself” from the elements, but “you” do not have to think about such issues anyway, because the “you” in charge does not have to decide, “I’ll be hungry.” You get hungry. You are hungry. You are tired. You are wet.

The thing inside you didn’t decide, “I’ll become cold.” You are cold, and soon the thing inside you says, “I’m cold!”

“You noticed,” reply your muscles and your epidermis, and all of your little cold chills.

Now for the real issue I want to present to you—the notion that man is in a particular condition, and that certain people, through specific extraordinary efforts, can change that condition—that they can achieve enlightenment and free themselves from a metaphysical captivity, from a spiritual darkness. Another image that has been used for thousands of years is that of awakening from a dream. As real as dreams appear when we’re asleep and having them, once we’re no longer in a dream, we know that the dream was an illusion. “I was dreaming that my mother’s ghost was chasing me across a mountain top. I woke up, and I knew it was an illusion, because here I am in my bed, and my mother died years ago.”

The description of awakening from a dream is good, but it amounts to separating yourself from an illusion. Those who claim that they have awakened, that they have achieved enlightenment, that they have achieved the Great Liberation say, “I no longer live an illusion.” That’s a very apt statement. I’ve said it myself. But—are you ready for a big laugh? I find it humorous, although you may not agree. What’s hilarious is that I’m not sure you’re going to be able to think about this. Literally.

Surely what I’ve been discussing strikes an immediate bell of familiarity. It must sound correct from your own experience, from whatever efforts you’ve made on your own. You don’t have to consider yourself wide awake, or completely enlightened, but something has happened in your life, something that you’ve experienced personally, or you wouldn’t have been listening to me for this long.

Can it not be said that your increased understanding, your increased enlightenment, even if it’s just incremental, has distanced you to some degree from illusion? Think back to something specific that you used to believe was a factual and correct view about either life in general or some philosophical or religious issue. After all this, you look at that view and think, “I can’t prove it, but I know that my former view is an illusion, and such a widespread illusion that Life wants people in general to believe it. I see that people have no interest in not believing that view. They’re not struggling to free themselves from their belief, because to them, that view is just the way things are. But now at least I’m freed from that particular illusion.”

You find being freed from that illusion preferable, or you wouldn’t be still doing This. Before I give you the funny part, let me repeat that this is a quite valid statement. Waking up, becoming enlightened, achieving the Great Liberation—it’s all separation from illusion. Are you ready for the joke? There is no way to be sure that what you have done is separate yourself from illusion. You could be separating from reality. The reason I’m not laughing now is that I’m already laughed-out about that possibility. It’s hilarious.

I’m going to repeat what I just said because I want to be sure you understand. Waking up could be the separation of yourself from illusion, or waking up could be the separation of yourself from reality. I am not saying that waking up puts you into another state of illusion, but there is a problem. People believe that they are in charge of themselves. Your ordinary consciousness believes that you are in charge of yourself, but I say that the thing that seems to be in charge is a stranger. You don’t know who he is. You certainly don’t know how he got there. You didn’t invite him. Ordinary people will not, and cannot, even think about something other than themselves being in charge of their thinking. An ordinary person would just say, “What you said means nothing. It’s just silly.”

I know about this, because I went through it. I wasn’t born as I am now. I know that ordinary people can’t look at themselves in this way. I know that my ordinary mind can’t. That’s part of the humor. I’m getting a little off the track, but it appears to me that if you’re listening to this, you’re likely to have experienced what I’m discussing here, but you probably never thought about it in this way. Part of the humor that’s singular to trying to wake up, is that when you’re looking at something, you drag your own ordinary mind in and make your mind look at what you’re looking at. That’s what’s funny, because there you stand, right next to you, going, “Huuuuh?” I’m being charitable, because what your mind is really doing is looking completely blank. You throw your arm around yourself and think, “Yeah, that’s me. Good old me. Am I a riot, or what? Come on, boy, look at that!” Your mind can’t look. All your mind can do is stand there like an idiot, while you hug it and say, “Poor fellow!”

Waking up could be separating yourself from reality. Again, I don’t mean that this is an illusion, and that in some way waking up is tricking yourself, or putting yourself in a state of self-delusion, so that you won’t have to face the fact that what we call being asleep is actually being normal. Being asleep is being normal, and all normal people believe that they are in charge of their consciousness. They can’t think about it, but ask some ordinary person, “Are you responsible for you? Are you responsible for your thoughts? Are you responsible for your emotions? Within the physical limits of the universe, do you have free will? Do you decide what you’re going to say? Do you decide what you think?” If the person answers each of those questions in the affirmative, is what that person said an illusion or reality? Nobody knows. Unless you can achieve—what do they call it? Enlightenment! But without achieving enlightenment, you don’t know.

I am intimating that something is worth looking into regarding the question of free will, as it is normally called—the question of whether you are consciously responsible for your consciousness. As always, I’m leaving out some obvious things such as societal pressures. If you live among groups of people, there are things that you can’t do without grave consequences. You can’t break the law with impunity. There are also things that you feel morally restrained from doing. You shouldn’t strike other people, steal things from others, take food from them. There are physical limitations as well. You can’t break the laws of gravity.

All of that applies to everyone, but in your personal world, the world that only you know about, the private you is thinking all kinds of things right now, while you’re listening to me. You can be thinking what an idiot I am. You can be thinking you wish I would shut up. Only you know. You know who that person is, don’t you? You know what that person will do. I ask you, “Is that person actually you?” You see, I’ve already gone off the road, because you can’t answer that. Check with your own ordinary mind. You can’t think about that.

If we lived in a better universe, that realization alone would wake you up. To realize, “There’s something I just heard, and I think I understand what it is. It’s a question, and I can’t think about it. But I just thought about it, because I just repeated it. The question is, am I in charge? The full question is, am I free to be me? Am I freely being me? Am I choosing what I think? Am I choosing how I feel when somebody mentions a religion, a political belief, a culture, a nationality. I can say, ‘I don’t like that religion. I don’t like that political idea. I don’t like that kind of art. I don’t like that kind of music,’ but did I reallymake that choice? Was that my decision?”

Think about that. Don’t disappoint me and be an idiot, as if you’re thinking about it, as if you’re trying to decide whether you can know the answer. You can’t know the answer. Isn’t that neat? I’m sure that right then, the thought went through your brain, “Yes, I can.” No, you can’t. You can even tell yourself, “No, I can’t.” It’s like pushing on a balloon. Your brain pushes back and says, “Yes, I can.”

Your brain can not think about it. If everyone is responsible for who we are, if we are free to be who we are, then waking up is separating ourselves from reality. But if who everybody thinks we are is actually a stranger, then we have no control over that stranger. If you had nothing to do with that stranger becoming you, and if you have nothing to do with what it does in your name now, then waking up is separating from an illusion. Right? But if the human mind, the ordinary, sane human mind cannot see, cannot even think about, much less determine whether it’s in charge or not, then how do we know what waking up is? How do we know what we’re separating from?

I know that I’m different from the way I used to be. I’m not going to argue that point, and maybe that’s one way to know that you’re a little awake. Some of you may remember that when you began to make progress in trying to awaken, you wanted to tell everybody how awake you’d become. If somebody said you weren’t awake, you were ready to fight them. That was all the proof you should have needed about how not-awake you were.

You’re to the point now, let’s say, that you wouldn’t tell anybody that you’re awake, or awakening. You don’t mention the subject. You certainly wouldn’t argue the point. You know that inside, you’re not what you used to be. You know that your views of life, or at least of specific areas of life that are meaningful to you, have changed. You may look the same to your family and your friends, but once you caught on to what’s going on, you stopped acting weird, so by now they’ve forgotten that at one time you went around saying, “I no longer live in a dream.” In other words, you pass for ordinary, but you remember who you used to be. You pass for ordinary, but you’ve separated from so much. What did you separate from? Illusion? Or reality?

The thing that believes it’s in charge when you’re in an ordinary state of mind, is that an illusion? The truth is, even you can’t think about it. That’s what’s funny. There is no way, under ordinary conditions, to know whether or not you are you. We’re not talking about your body, as beautiful or as handsome as you may be. We’re talking about you. You know what that is. Physically, you may not be all that outstanding, but inside, everybody is a jewel. Everybody is absolutely splendid. Now tell yourself, “This thing inside, how can I know if that’s me? How do I know that the thoughts I’m having are the thoughts I want to have?”

Not only can you not know, what’s funny is you can’t even think about it. It’s not like, “I can’t come to an immediate conclusion.” You can’t think about it, and if you think you’re thinking about it, you’re lying to yourself. That shows what a dreamer you are, to say, “That’s tricky. I’ll have to think about that further.” You might as well stick pokers in your eyes and get it over with. You’re blind.

So, is waking up a separation from illusion, or from reality? It could be either. The answer is not important. Literally. The answer is the same kind of gunk you used to believe that you don’t believe any more. You probably can’t even remember what it was. Same way with the answer to this conundrum. The answer is irrelevant, an unnecessary complication. If you think of the answer, all that will do is put you back into an ordinary state of mind.

What enlightenment does is make you realize all of the false reasons for suffering, all of the illusory hatreds and prejudices and small-mindedness. The Hindus, the Vedic literature, and then Buddha said that enlightenment is a separating from this world of illusion, that there’s a whole world that everyone who’s not enlightened lives in, which they believe is real, but which is an illusion. They say that world is a dream, and to achieve enlightenment is to wake up from that dream.

When people like us hear that the first time, we’re sure that’s what we’ve been seeking. Except that “waking up” could be separation from reality. That sounds very insulting, very disturbing, and might make you think, “What he’s saying is that achieving enlightenment is actually entering some sort of psychotic state. You don’t actually benefit. You just go slightly nutty.” That is not what I’m saying. I’m asking you to look at the state of being enlightened, and to realize that there’s no way that you can know whether it’s entering reality, or leaving reality. The most fertile area, or one of the most, that you can ever muck around in and try to plow up, is to constantly ponder and investigate the question of whether there is free will. Don’t investigate philosophically out in the world, but inside yourself. Ask yourself, “Right now, is this me? Is there a me in here? Am I choosing what I’m thinking and feeling right now? I was suddenly deciding to go and do such-and-such. Did I decide to do that?”

The sane and normal answer is, “That has to be me. Yes, that was me who decided.” The alternative is that you’re crazy. Try an experiment anyway. Next time you’re driving along and have a sudden impulse to go visit someone or pull in at a store and look at some clothing, stop and think back to the idea, “Is this me inside of me in charge of my decisions? If so, is it actually me who made that decision?” If your answer is, “Well, there’s nobody else in this car, and nobody else inside me. Sure I made that decision,” then I don’t know why you’re bothering to listen to this.

That answer of yours smells like the Fulton Fish Market. To accept and believe, “Yes, that was me. I decided to do that,” is to make a grievous error. At the very least it should help you realize that you don’t really want to wake up as desperately as you thought you did, because if you let that pass, you’re still sleepwalking. You don’t know an opportunity when you see it. Sure, thinking about this will give you a headache, but just because this is virtually impossible to think about, if you let that stop you, tut tut.

I was hoping you would enjoy this, because it is eye-opening to realize that you don’t know whether achieving enlightenment is a separating yourself from Buddha’s great world of illusion, or leaving reality behind. Now I can’t decide whether to stop talking or not. But if I do, does that mean that after saying all that to them, I would have to pretend . . . oops, I accidentally turned off the mike . . .

Jan’s Daily Fresh Real News (to accompany this talk)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Acting As Clock For The Real Tick-Tock
March 3, 2004 ©2004: JAN COX
Ask Yourself: How Can You Find Fault With Life:
Something So Interesting And Constantly Comical

If Neurons AND Hormones Could Talk.
Again the two lovers quarreled:
“Life is too short for us to make each other suffer like this.”
“No — life is too long for us to do this.”
“Too short!”
“Too long!”
“Too short!”
“Too long!” — do you get the point? — do you by feel recognize it as being in you,
and pragmatically far beyond mere notions of irony?!

Hormones rob the bank; neurons write the hold-up note — after the fact.

One man says: “The best thing about what ordinary men call: the news
is that every day’s can be summed in thirty minutes.”
Graffito found in the bathroom between the Physics and Philosophy departments
at city college:
“The mastermind of things sublime,
is he who knows the space of time — no my dear: the real space.”
Fact: The size of one’s consciousness is the sense of one’s time:
constricted C = hurried T.

The reason that sheep are everyone’s personal hero is obvious.

Snarls one guy’s mind: “I should sue all those other people for their
unauthorized appropriation of the term for I am truly: The Me Generation!”

Clichés are like old mental friends — rebel consciousness hates old friends.

With words do neurons attack, and by them in neurons are men hurt;
with fists do hormones attack, and by them are men in both hormones & neurons hurt,
and neurons cry: “UNFAIR!”
Question: Why do not hormones cry foul over the fact that
there are only martyrs to neural activity?
Ferrets know when to stay holed —
even as mathematicians continue to irrationally wander about the landscape.

Clichés are like close city allies — rebel consciousness eschews close allies.

How Mind Works When It’s Too Mechanically Given.
When it was suggested to one man that he use the: Word Correct on his computer
to automatically type oft used, long terms by putting into: Replace the acronym for
the term and then the full phrase in: With — he shook his head:
“Oh no — that would never work: the computer would know that it was not a real word, and recognize what I was trying to pull.”

Smack dab in the middle of everybody, one man stood and declared his desires:
“I will not be satisfied with my life until I find:
a religion that will make me feel guilty for just being alive;
a government that will make me believe that I owe it;
a hobby that I must defend,
and personal relationships so deep, strong and meaningful
that I will have mixed feelings about them.”
(Perhaps his listeners weren’t quite themselves that day — for no one had any response to his comment?!)

The Unnoticed Relationship Between Brain & Consciousness And Fashion & Fashion.
You can either wear clothing made of naturally wrinkled materials,
and thus never have to press them — or:
move to a place where the background of life itself is wrinkled,
and ergo you never seem out of style.

“In the city: Those who pretend the most — may win the most.”
“And that is only true in the city?”
“No — but I didn’t think you were up for the bigger version.”

A guy grumped to a sage:
“You once said that: thinking-is-fun, and I’d like to say: Maybe the way you do it!”
(Note: Only those who take crap seriously take criticism of crap seriously.)

No system is better or worse than the people running it,
which is why (men knowing this) all systems have rules written for them which describe in detail how they should be operated so as to remove the capriciousness of, The-human-element — and as with all things mental, civilized and city rational:
this sounds fine — until you really think about it for more than three seconds.
A real knight on the true magical quest is always his own system and rules —
anything less leaves him fighting dragons —
and everyone knows that dragons do not actually exist.

A man with an ever hovering feeling that he should be improving-himself
one day thought:
“If I don’t finally do something about this, the stress and guilt will be the death of me,” and his stomach chuckled and said:
“Ah, don’t sweat it — cancer’ll get you first” —— and the man felt a lot better.

More News Regarding Neurons & Hormones.
Even a man on a mission-from-god will stop what he’s doing to go to the bathroom.

“If there is something deeply embarrassing I have done —
can I not tell you about it?”
“If there is something terribly sad that happened to me —
can I not tell you about that too?”
“If you prefer.”
“Can I not tell you anything about me?”

Words! — what a marvelous concept;
words & the potential for ever enlarging consciousness:
what a compass & timepiece man alone possesses.


Just for the just of it one kid typed in a web search for:Doing The Thing.